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Avoiding Catastrophe: Conversation with Gov. James J. Florio

Donald Trump's "obnoxiousness" was actually a stroke of luck for America because it helped bring about his defeat and avoided what otherwise would have been a "catastrophe", said former Congressman and New Jersey Governor James J. Florio.

In an exclusive interview with Not Fake News for our NFN Radio News podcast, Florio, a Democrat, said another four years of Trump in the White House could have resulted in his becoming a virtual dictator.

"I was very concerned that if Trump had another four years, we would not recognize this nation," he said. "I feel very strongly that our nation was saved from a catastrophic outcome by virtue of the fact that he was defeated."

Florio said he worries now that someone "less obnoxious" than Trump, but with the same characteristics and viewpoints could emerge in the years ahead, and cautioned that Americans must be vigilant and "become very much involved" so that doesn't happen.

"The Republican Party seems to be in a dilemma," observed Florio. "They can't decide what it is. Do they want to be the party that it was in the past, or do they want to be the party of Trump?" Now, they will be challenged to determine whether they will continue to be intimidated by Trump when he leaves the White House, or if they will "repudiate him and return to their basic values."

Florio, who was in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975-1990, served in Congress with now President-elect Joe Biden, and spent many hours riding Amtrak with him as each commuted from Washington, DC -- Biden to Wilmington, DE, and Florio to Camden, NJ. "He was very easy to talk to," he said of the then senator.

In Congress, Florio was a passionate defender of the environment and played a crucial role in the enactment of 1980s-era Superfund laws, which helped to clean up toxic waste sites in his home state and around the country. (Disclosure: I was his Washington office chief of staff in 1976 and 1977.)

As New Jersey's governor from 1990 to 1994, Florio was forced by a state budget crisis to raise state taxes. As a consequence, the Republicans pounced and made him a one term governor.

When he left government service, Florio said the business tycoon, Donald Trump, invited him to serve on the board of directors of one of his Atlantic City casinos. During that period, he learned first-hand about Trump's narcissism and penchant for finding a scapegoat whenever something went wrong -- traits that worried Florio when Trump ran for the presidency.

Now, he is optimistic that Biden can help bring people together and at least ease the divisions that Trump has created. "Joe Biden has the ability to bring us together," he said.

Jim Florio is the author of the book “Standing on Principle,” a memoir that reflects upon the challenges that he faced throughout his political career.

I can tell you from personal experience, that this man did, indeed, “stands on principle.” He was tough, hard working, hard charging, and demanding. But he did not ask more from his staff than what he was willing to deliver, himself.

Now retired from politics, the governor still lives in New Jersey, maintains a law practice, writes, and teaches. His book is available on

Listen to the full interview here.

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